- Homeschooling an Asynchronous Child with Sonlight
A one-size-fits-all approach rarely works for education. Even among a group of students with identical birthdays, you’d be hard-pressed to find two children who share precisely the same stages of development and readiness across all areas of study. Yet the traditional approach to education continues to assume students all learn at roughly the same speed in all subjects. As helpful as scope and sequence charts and grade-level guidelines are, children are intensely individual, and the fact is: no two children progress along exactly identical paths.
Some of this belief in same-age sameness arose out of institutional necessity as the school system sought to streamline the education of large groups of children. And as a result, we’ve all been conditioned to think in terms of being behind or ahead of grade level.
Not only are children different from each other in rates of development, but an individual child may not progress at the same rate across all subject areas. When this gap is considerably large, we call it asynchronous development. A child with asynchronous development is many ages at once; he or she is often significantly ahead of grade-level standards in one or more topics of study, yet considerably behind same-age peers in other areas.
While schools sometimes have loose systems in place to address variations in academic progress, rarely are they are able to adequately meet the needs of a child with asynchronous development.
Sonlighters Can Avoid Grade Level Constraints
As homeschoolers, though, we have the privilege of making curriculum decisions based on readiness and development first, and grade level second. We don’t need to find a way to educate thousands of children en masse, as efficiently as possible! Even the largest homeschool family is still a very small private school. We can attend to our children’s education with the most individualized care.
And we don’t need to settle on a single grade level across all subjects. Homeschooling an asynchronous child is one of the best ways to provide a customized education.
Sonlight Levels are Designed for Flexibility
At their very core, books are versatile and hold a wide range of appeal. A single book might be advertised as a middle-grade reading level, contain topics which delight younger children, yet hold enough complexity and nuances to captivate an adult reader. (Sonlight Read-Alouds really do capture the attention of everyone in the family.) So it only makes sense a literature-based education would be designed for flexibility.
Sonlight does designate a grade level for each History / Bible / Literature package, offering a helpful starting point when determining which set is perfect for your child. (Advisors can help with this, too.) But each Sonlight History / Bible / Literature level is also designed with a flexible span of ages in mind. This means each level can meet a wide range of needs and grades—even when that range is found in the one asynchronous child.
History / Bible / Literature Level A, for example, centers around beloved childhood topics—the suggested ages are five through seven—yet unlike the preschool and pre-kindergarten levels, it utilizes chapter books as read-alouds. These book choices
- challenge an older child who is ready to dig deeper,
- delight a younger child, and
- appeal to an asynchronous child who is many ages at once.
“The fact that the [read-aloud] books were almost always...advertised by the publisher for...[older ages], but were still interesting to younger kids, was really helpful for us,” shares Sonlighter Melinda S.
And of course, to accompany the History / Bible / Literature Read-Alouds, Advisors can also help you mix and match appropriate Readers, Science, Language Arts, and Math from a wide range of levels when homeschooling an asynchronous child.
Sonlight Levels Allow for Oral Discussion, Not Written Worksheets
Some homeschool methods are heavy on writing in the early years, which can frustrate an eager child with emerging motor skills. Sonlighter Cynthia H. relates to this challenge, explaining, “I have one who is behind in writing, so letting him excel at History / Literature content without [requiring] a writing component was hard to find. I didn't want to hold him back because he couldn't complete the worksheets.”
Learners who do not have the stamina for lengthy writing—but are still ready to dive deeper—will find themselves at home in a Sonlight education, since parents and students are guided through oral discussion (not worksheets) in the early History / Bible / Literature levels. And even in Language Arts and Science, where written work is incorporated, Sonlight encourages parents to act as young children’s scribe. “The fact that much of the work was intended to be done orally was really good for my child who read avidly but struggled with pencil skills,” adds Melinda S. “She was five years ahead in reading and two years behind in physical things like handwriting.”
Sonlight recognizes the need for penmanship (practice with the goal of fluency), but doesn’t doesn’t let the physical act of writing get in the way of the learning, when an oral answer would suffice. (And, yes, kids using a Sonlight education still learn to research, edit, spell, and write.)
A Sonlight Education Allows Students to Physically Move
The oral elements extend beyond discussion, as well. Since Read-Alouds are the centerpiece, Sonlight also meets the needs of students who wouldn’t necessarily thrive if taxed with extensive textbook reading assignments. Many asynchronous kids, for example, have an almost-compulsive need to move. And some students can focus better with movement than without! History and Literature Read-Alouds provide an ideal solution for children who can process information better while listening and moving than while sitting still and focusing on interpreting the written word. In fact, allowing physical activity during read-alouds often results in more focused listening.
Whatever delightful quirkiness we observe in our children, homeschooling offers us the glorious freedom to create an environment where our children will thrive. And it doesn’t even matter if the academic progression is slower or faster than the conventionally-accepted (but rarely-challenged) school system schedule—or if school looks nothing like its desk-sitting, 8-o’clock-to-3-o’clock counterpart.
Sonlighting truly allows kids to learn at their own pace.
- Motor Memory: The Missing Piece for Kids with Bad Handwriting
When teaching our kids manuscript and cursive handwriting, many homeschool parents forget about the importance of motor memory. Motor memory, simply put, is the ability to instantly recall and replicate specific motor movements. When you do something so many times that it becomes automatic, motor memory is at play.
Tasks that use motor memory seem complex at first, but eventually we are able to do them without even thinking. Some examples include tying shoes, walking, balancing on one leg, kicking a ball, biking, and driving. When we first learn to cycle, it feels awkward and uncomfortable, but usually within a fairly short time period, a child is able to perform the needed movements of pedaling and balancing without consciously thinking about them. This memory is stored for years, even if we don't regularly bike, and when we try to ride again years later, this memory is easily accessed. Thanks to motor memory, we can still ride a bike!
To illustrate how motor memory works, think of opening a door. Every time you enter and exit a door, do you stop to think about how to open it and move through the door frame? Of course not. You rely on motor memory to navigate a door. But now imagine you are on crutches or are carrying a heavy load. Now your motor memory fails you, and you have to pause to consciously consider how to manage the door.
How Motor Memory Affects Handwriting
For those of us who have mastered handwriting, we write without stopping to think of each step. We don’t need to remember how each letter is formed or where to start and end with our pen. We just put pen to paper and write what we are thinking about. It feels absolutely automatic for us!
In contrast, children who struggle with handwriting have not yet acquired the motor memory that makes writing automatic.
Prerequisites of Motor Memory
Before you begin working on motor memory, make sure your child is doing well in the following areas:
- identifying letters by sight
- recognizing that reading and writing go from left to right
- understanding the sequence in which each letter is formed
- knowing correct posture, pencil grasp, and paper position
- transcribing entire words at a time, whether through copywork, dictation, or other means
- understanding spacing between words and letters
Less Writing, More Handwriting
The best way to get good at handwriting is to do it so often that you don’t have to think about it. Therefore daily handwriting practice is essential. This practice needs to be focused on handwriting skills, not sheer volume of writing.
It is better to write less with great handwriting than it is to write more with poor handwriting. Ten well-written words will do far more to improve handwriting skills than a ten-page paper of poor handwriting will. Assign enough handwriting to encourage motor memory, but not so much that your child slides into sloppy handwriting. This threshold will be different for each student.
∞ Infinity Symbols ∞
One good way to ingrain the motions needed for most letters is to have your child draw and keep tracing over infinity symbols (∞). As long as one keeps going around an infinity symbol, it is never ending, making it a perfect handwriting skill builder.
Take a sheet of paper and turn it so it is the long way across, giving you the most space for writing. Draw a very large infinity symbol on it, taking up most of the page but leaving a little bit of a blank border around the end in case a pencil or crayon slips off the line and into that area.
Now simply arm your child with a variety of writing implements and allow them to write. The entire assignment is to keep going around and around the infinity circle with few to no stops. It can be a dozen times or a hundred times. They can start at any point on the symbol and stop at any point.
Do this exercise daily until they are very good at making infinity symbols without thinking about it (tapping into motor memory). You can use this on its own, or with daily handwriting practice.
Taking Infinity to the Next Level
Once your child is good at making infinity symbols and has had at least several days of practice, try having them draw a straight line down the middle of the page dividing the infinity symbol in half, and use that line to help them make lowercase letters over top of their symbols.
Most of the letters of the alphabet can be made within this infinity shape with a line down the middle. For example, a can be made using the circle on the left, and going to the straight line, in one smooth motion. The letter b can be made by starting in the middle and then following the right hand circle around. C can be found on the left again, and so forth.
A few letters (x, z, w, etc) don’t fit well into this, but with a little creativity, you can adapt most letters to fit in well.
Focusing on the Movement
Sometimes children use the visual aspect of writing to help them learn, but still struggle to make it fully motor dependent, that is to rely on motor memory. One easy way to boost motor memory is to try handwriting activities while blindfolded. Removing the aid of sight helps to isolate the motion of each letter, rather than its appearance, and uses different portions of the brain.
Infinity In Between
If a child appears to need even more practice, or is less than fully fluid with their movements when making letters, but seems to have mastered the infinity symbol, you can have them practice small infinity circles between each word or letter. This will help them associate the movements needed for making the infinity symbol with the movements needed for handwriting.
Using a Handwriting Program…Or Not
One question I get asked frequently is whether there is a real benefit to using a handwriting program. My answer is yes. Handwriting is, as I described above, a motor memory skills, and to write well, one must practice writing well. Handwriting books are designed to encourage children to always write the correct way, making sure their practice builds accurate motor memory.
If your child is struggling with handwriting, they will benefit greatly from a formal handwriting program much more than they will from homemade handwriting pages, free printables, or books from the dollar store. Require them to do their best and follow the instructions outlined in the curriculum.
Not all children need handwriting books. Some have naturally neat handwriting and seem to intuitively write without much effort at all. But many children benefit from having a curriculum that clearly shows the process and allows them to practice from samples that are already correctly written.
Hopefully, in a short time period, your children will be able to master handwriting and do well with it. But, as always, the most important component to learning handwriting is practice, practice, practice, always using good handwriting. The rest comes with time.
- How Potty Training Nearly Derailed My Plan to Homeschool
Do you have young children and want to homeschool? Are you confident it’s the right decision, but have some doubts about being able to get it done? Me too, friend—all the time!
It’s embarrassing to admit now, but potty training almost derailed my homeschooling adventure before it even started. My eldest, at two years old, suddenly started taking off her soiled diapers and leaving them all over the house. My plans for relaxed potty training quickly bit the dust. I found myself elbow deep in natural, vinegar-based cleaner, desperate to rid my carpets of urine smell. I won’t traumatize you by telling you about what covered my newly procured light table, purchased specifically for inspiring preschool activities at home.
Standing next to a screaming, naked toddler who hates all your perfect plans for making potty training fun is disheartening for even the most stoic of moms. Perhaps potty training isn’t your Achilles heel; maybe it's car seat tantrums or lack of manners at church. Regardless, there comes a time in every mother’s life when our youngsters refuse to cooperate.
When Parenting is Hard, We Doubt Our Ability to Homeschool
If you are planning to homeschool, these episodes can be particularly terrifying. They can cast doubt on our ability to connect and relate with our kids. You might wonder if keeping them at home is really best for them. Worse yet, there isn’t anyone to really turn to for advice. You aren’t one hundred percent sure if the mom next to you at playgroup is planning to homeschool or if letting that information slip will turn you into a social pariah.
While you’re in the trenches, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and sink. Please know that overcoming obstacles like potty training and car seat tantrums can help forge a strong bond between you and your child. Navigating some of these early childhood challenges may even improve your homeschooling. Plus, the mom next to you at the playground just might turn out to be your biggest ally, regardless of how she chooses to educate her children. Reaching out can be worth the risk!
The Silver Lining in the Parenting Battles
Life with young kids is crazy-hard, but it does get better! Remember that wild toddler leaving unspeakables all over my home? She still hates my perfect plans. She still has to be absolutely ready and interested before she will give it her all. Individual attention and internal motivation are key. Getting her excited about her work and letting her go at her own pace make all the difference. Sure, we still have messes here and there, but now, I know it’s worth it!
My job as a homeschool mom is to help her find her interests and motivation. Sure, it’s a challenge, and sometimes I miscalculate. Yet, wow, when I get it right and watch her succeed, there isn’t a better feeling in all the world! Don’t get lost in diapers, car seats, and sippy cups. The rewards are coming!
You Can Do It! You Can Homeschool!
Potty training certainly won’t be your last hurdle. Parenting and homeschooling often test the most serene patience. Yet your early struggles aren’t for naught. They will help you to face disasters and disobedience with experience. You are gaining the tenacity to fight for yourself and your relationship with your child. You will be able to find solutions that work for your family.
So, moms of little ones, if potty training feels like the worst experience of your life or car seat drama has stolen your joy, hang in there! Don’t scratch homeschool before you even start! If you are truly called to homeschool and you believe that it is the right course for your family, it is!
Life with small children is just hard. Take a deep breath and know that you are not alone with your struggles. God gave you these kids to raise and love! He trusts you and it’s time to trust yourself. You are the right one to love and guide and teach your child!
- 3 Life Lessons for Adults from Sonlight's Kindergarten Curriculum
Not only is Intro to the World: Cultures filled with fun stories our kids love to hear, but it also holds encouragement for us as homeschooling parents. That's the beauty of a great book—it is inspiring to multiple ages, touching young children in one way and their parents at a different level.
Read that great book again a few years later, and you will find it touches you once more in a completely fresh way! This bonus is deliberate; one of the criteria for a Sonlight book is that it can be re-read again and again without becoming stale.
Here are three insights I've discovered from Read-Alouds in HBL A. Each lesson is one that applies to adults just as much as it instructs kindergartners.
Lesson 1: Be Resourceful and Creative
My Father’s Dragon, the story of a young boy named Elmer who sets out to rescue a dragon, is filled with examples of using what you have on hand to meet a particular need. In the real world, we don’t need to give a toothbrush and toothpaste to a rhinoceros or magnifying glasses to monkeys, but we’re constantly faced with problems to solve.
Whether it’s organizing books and supplies, keeping toddlers away from disrupting older siblings who are working, or figuring out how to get home, work, and school tasks accomplished each day, we can search for solutions in the objects and skill sets we already have at our disposal.
Better yet, we should ask our kids to help us be resourceful, or, depending on the situation, put them in charge of figuring it out on their own. Not only do you save money by not rushing out to buy a product to fix the problem or a self-help book on the topic at hand, but you give everyone a chance to experience the feeling of success that can only come from working through a problem to its resolution. The more we think outside the box, the bigger our box becomes and the less intimidated we are by the next challenge we face.
Lesson 2: Admit Unrealistic Expectations
Bill loves animals and knows a lot about them, so his decision to get a capybara of his own in Cappyboppy isn’t an entirely bad idea. However, it didn’t take long for problems to arise. Addressing issues one right after another, there came a point when it was clear that owning a capybara simply wasn’t going to work out.
Having done our research, we set out to educate our kids with both excitement and good intentions. However, sometimes things don’t work out quite the way we anticipate. We make adjustments and keep moving forward. But what happens when we keep changing things and the problem remains? Those are the times we need to take a hard look at whether our expectations were realistic in the first place.
- The awesome math curriculum so many people love may be a bad fit for your son.
- Your desire for the whole family to gather in the living room each morning may not be feasible in your current season of life.
- Your daughter may be more productive if she wakes up early and starts her work right away, even though homeschooling allows for a leisurely start to the day.
There’s no shame in admitting defeat. In fact, the one who admits they were wrong and moves on to a better plan is the one who is truly successful.
Lesson 3: Think Past Yourself
It’s human nature to be offended when other people’s choices have a negative impact on our own lives, which is exactly what happens to Ronnie in The Light at Tern Rock. Upset that Byron Flagg has ruined his Christmas, Ronnie spends quite a bit of time wallowing in resentment. Eventually, with time and the example Aunt Marthy sets, he turns his attitude around.
It’s so easy as parents, and definitely as homeschoolers who are with our families all the time, to be like Ronnie, caught up in the frustration and stress that comes when our kids do things that ruin our plans or create unnecessary work for us. We become resentful people who are easily irritated, vacillating between withdrawing from our family and lashing out at them. If we choose instead to be like Aunt Marthy, seeking to understand and show empathy toward others, regardless of whether they’re right or wrong, we’ll create a pleasant home environment and be less miserable ourselves. Not only that, but when our kids’ behavior is a genuine problem that needs to be addressed, we’ll handle it more effectively when we’ve made a sincere attempt to understand why they behaved the way they did.
Whether you curl up on a comfy chair to read to your child, sit at the table and read while they eat lunch, or listen to an audio book together while driving down the road, I challenge you to pay attention to the lessons their books may have in store for you.
If a Read-Aloud has touched you in a profound way, I'd love to hear about it. Leave a comment below.
- 5 Rewards of a Reading Lifestyle
Mention Sonlight to someone, and the conversation might turn toward a discussion of living books versus textbooks. But to me, Sonlight is more than the sum of its literature-based parts. Reading is not a philosophy of education; it’s a way of life. And a reading lifestyle offers many rewards.
1. Reading Allows Us to Seek Oases in the Desert
As homeschoolers, we have the privilege of embracing the full spectrum of learning, rather than simply going through the motions of school. (What’s the difference? School is something you have to complete, while learning is a lifestyle.) Our goal in educating our children is not to spoon-feed a given set of data over a twelve-year period, but to ignite a lifelong thirst and teach our kids to seek out oases in the desert. Books invites us to continue on in our figurative quest for water.
2. Reading Rewards Us With Hidden Beauty
Sometimes the nuggets of truth in a written passage are readily apparent; other times, the nuances require a little deeper digging before they’re visible. This is analogous to life; the profundity of life will not always shout to us from the surface, but is often
- hidden away in quiet corners,
- glistening in the shadows,
- camouflaged by the everyday,
- waiting to be discovered.
Reading teaches us it’s not always the flashiest or the loudest moments which are the most precious. In quiet searching through the written word, we are rewarded deeply.
3. Reading Instills in Us a Drive for Answers
Have you ever encountered someone who just seems to know an abundance of (accurate!) information about all sorts of topics? It’s likely not because this person is inherently more intelligent than any other given person, but simply that she is skilled at independent research; that is, she knows how to find information and connect ideas.
The modern educational system has a tendency to produce students who are stunted in their ability to find answers, verify facts, and research information. But reading ignites curiosity, and curiosity, in turn, demands answers. And kids who read will be far more adept at placing facts in the context of cultural literacy than those who simply click search on a computer screen.
4. Reading Trains Us to Sift Facts from Fiction
Reading allows us to practice discernment by separating facts from fiction. When we’re very young and still learning the limits of the world, children’s storybooks teach us—often through the humor of implausible situations—the confines of natural law. And when we read historical fiction, we’re not just learning history, but we’re also learning to discern the factual thread in the midst of a story-line which reflects collective human experience.
- navigate philosophy,
- identify literary themes,
- call out good and evil,
- shine the light on logical fallacies, and
- discuss what we’ve read
we’re molding and influencing our worldview. That’s why it’s so important to read both books that make you cry and books with difficult topics, then to break up the heavier themes with books of varied genres.
5. Reading Gives Us the Gift of Cross-Cultural Travel
Ever since I was a little girl, books have given me wings. When my age—or my travel budget—kept me home, books allowed me to travel to faraway lands, gently placing me down on streets filled with chatter, where I wandered through alleyways, chapters, and pages. Even today, my favorite books are those which provide a window to another culture. (I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough for Sonlight’s study of the Eastern Hemisphere in History / Bible / Literature Level F.)
Reading cross-cultural books does more than give context to our geographical frame of reference; it also breathes human life into the scattered, faceless, dots on the map. Cross-cultural books allow us to
- listen in on conversations,
- step into the lives of others,
- see the world beyond our own limitations, and
- develop empathy along the way.
And you’ll notice another gift: the more you read diverse books, the more you’ll embrace the marvelous God-given diversity in your own city, too. Reading excellent books full of truth expands our horizons, and allows us to receive new ideas with a teachable spirit.
The reading lists may seem long and the homeschool days may seem endless, but there’s delight in the pages, and myriad rewards for cultivating a reading lifestyle. Readers ponder topics thoughtfully, see the world in deeply nuanced ways, and never stop seeking out more.
Carry on, dear friend. Stay the course. To raise a reader is to raise a world-changer.
- What To Do If Your Child Hates Homeschool History
While all kids have their favorite school subjects, it's especially sad to me when kids say they hate history. Unfortunately, I understand how it can happen. I, too, used to despise history because the method I encountered in public school presented history as a lifeless list of events, one after the other. I didn't see the narrative behind the people of history. There were few connections beyond the most basic cause and effect. And history didn't seem to have any relation to my own day to day life.
As homeschool parents, how can we prevent our kids from loathing history? And if it's already the case—if you have a child who hates history, how can we turn around that perception and help kids fall in love with history?
1. Use Narratives to Teach History
When history is taught with a dry textbook approach, it loses its ability to captivate. And history can captivate you when you use a better approach—namely stories.
I've been using Sonlight's History / Bible/ Literature D with my children, and its engrossing stories have helped them fall in love with American history unlike any textbook approach could ever do! Using a combination of picture books, Read-Alouds, and non-fiction, the Sonlight approach creates a sense of excitement when introducing children to history.
Stories are filled with adventure, excitement, and sometimes comedy. Let your children laugh and use their imagination when reading the narratives in Sonlight curriculum. Don't just read the story, transport your children to the scene and inspire them with your own curiosity about what will happen next.
2. Make a Lap Book
I love lap books! They are a great way to get children involved in creating a personalized papercraft that doubles as a history reference for future homeschool lessons. Sonlight now offers Lap Book Kits which make it easy to add this hands-on teaching strategy to your routine. If your kids are especially creative, they may want to go beyond the kit and create their own foldables. Let them express what they've learned through crafts if it helps them fall in love with history.
3. Play the Part
Your children will love dressing up as the characters in history and playing the part in a home play performed and directed by themselves. After a daily history lesson, encourage your kids to recreate what you read by acting out the parts. They don't need to write a script; let them improvise based on what they learned. This method is all about getting the children involved. Laughter and silliness are encouraged!
4. Do Hands-on Activities
When you read about something from history, try to do it yourself.
- Make butter by shaking heavy cream in a sealed jar to understand how Pioneers did it.
- Use clay to create beautiful little pots like the Native Americans of the West.
- Use a compass to understand how explorers navigated the continent without detailed maps.
Again, Sonlight makes hands-on activities easy with a kit that is just as open-and-go as their Instructor's Guides.
5. Keep a Timeline
Keeping track of what happened in history is much easier with the visual aid of a timeline. Instead of memorizing dates, create a timeline that you can reference. Sonlight's Timeline Book and timeline figures are part of each HBL. The Instructor's Guide tells you exactly which figures to place and where to put them. Again, if you have artsy kids, they may want to embellish their timelines with extra drawings, cut-outs, or descriptions.
Have fun transporting your children into history and guiding them to discover different cultures and events from the past. Inspire them by asking questions and learn alongside them by participating in fun activities. When you take a literature-rich and hands-on approach to history, you won't have a homeschool of history haters. Instead, history will be your kids' favorite subject of all!
- 9 Ways to Motivate the Dawdling Teenager to Get Homeschool Done
Raising teenagers gets a bad rap. Ask most moms and they will let you in on a huge secret—raising and homeschooling teens is one of the most rewarding phases of parenting! You finally start to see the fruit of years of parenting, catching a glimmer of the soon-to-be adults that they are transforming into.
That is not to say that homeschooling teens is without difficulty. Some older kids have a tendency to slack on their homeschool work, procrastinate, or dawdle through the day, getting little done. If you have a teen dawdler, don't feel like a failure! You still have time to instill a strong work ethic and time management skills in these last years of homeschooling.
Here is my list of nine methods for dealing with dawdling in older kids. When it comes to dawdling, I've found that the older a child gets, the less effective incentives become. A ninth grader will roll his eyes at a sticker chart or a trip to the zoo. On the upside, consequences seem to become more effective as children mature. And that's why you see consequences in this list whereas I don't use them as much with younger children.
1. Provide More Supervision
Oftentimes I’ve found that when my children are less than fully compliant with their assignments, it’s a sign that I’ve given them too much to do on their own. They may not be ready to have quite so much to do on their own. In these cases, they may benefit from sitting near me so I can see and redirect them when they are getting distracted. They might benefit from more direct supervision in their lessons or frequent check-ins. It could be they need a hand setting up a schedule or an outline. Once they get help in the area they are struggling with, they usually do well with it on their own, but you may experience a few lapses over the teen years when you need to swoop in and assist again.
2. Consider Diet, Exercise, and Sleep
If you're finding a child struggles with learning and attention span on a regular basis, pay attention to these three key areas of diet, exercise, and sleep.
- Children who are hungry have a difficult time focusing on mental tasks.
- Children low on protein and high on sugar and carbs have shorter attention spans.
- Teens who are fatigued from sports and activities or who don't get enough exercise can struggle with schoolwork.
The same goes for a child who stayed up until 2 a.m. reading under the covers or a child fighting their natural circadian rhythm by getting up at 7 a.m. when their natural wake up time is closer to 10 a.m.
I've found it necessary with some of my children to monitor their behavior after certain foods because sensitivities do affect behavior and concentration. Foods that affect my children include egg, soy, dairy, and food dyes.
3. Start with the Hard School Subjects
Have your teens start the homeschool day with their toughest subjects under your supervision (or at least nearby presence) before moving on independently with the easier subjects. Getting the hard things out of the way usually will encourage teenagers to fly through the rest. But in some children, saving the hardest for last is more motivating. They will power through their least favorite subject simply to be done for the day. Either way will be effective; it just depends on your child’s personality. Try both and see!
4. Make a Distinction Between School Time and Homework Time
Another method I’ve found effective with preteens and teens is to have a set amount of time for school. Once that time ends, they are on free time. However, if they have not managed to finish all their schoolwork by free time, they must complete the rest of the assignments as homework. Knowing they will be cutting into their own free time, as opposed to scheduled school time, provides stimulus to work a bit harder.
5. Go Half and Half
Sometimes compromise is key. I’ve found that by simply giving my children half the math problems on a page and then setting a timer, I can avoid many conflicts. If they can get them all right in a reasonable amount of time, then they are done because they have proven they don’t need the other half.
If they miss problems or dawdle, then I move onto consequences (although I have been known to ignore small errors). Simply having the child correct the problems they get wrong (or didn’t get to do), plus two extras from that page is often enough of a consequence to motivate a child to work quickly without rushing and making simple mistakes.
6. Take Away Electronics or Other Privileges
Teens love their technology, their friends, and their independence, so they make prime candidates for consequences. If teens are wasting your time by dawdling through their homeschool, you can restrict one of those three cherished items as a consequence.
I tend to try to balance the consequence with the dawdling. For example, if they are taking an extra day to do their work, then I usually ban them from electronics for a day. Or if they are taking an hour to argue with me instead of getting their assignment done, I might decide to have them stay in for an hour that evening instead of going out with friends.
7. Incorporate Summer School
We tend to homeschool year-round, so this solution to dawdling hasn’t been used much by our family. But it works for my sister-in-law! When her children dawdle to the point they are frustrating her, she will shut down school for the day and tack that day onto the end of their school year, postponing summer break. Her children know if they don’t do their homeschool assignments now, they will still have to be done later, subtracting time from their summer vacation.
8. Let Them Set Their Own Consequences
Teens and preteens will often be harder on themselves than you are, so let them come up with a plan for what should happen if they aren’t following through on their work. You'll be surprised to find that they may come up with a plan that needs very little negotiation because it's so reasonable. As a bonus, they are more likely to follow the plan and comply with the consequences since it was of their own creation.
9. Supplement Mental Work with Physical Work
Sometimes, children simply don't want to put in the work. In those cases, I have them switch from the mental work of homeschool to something physical:
- running laps around the house
- doing extra household chores
- mowing the lawn or doing other yard work
These physical tasks, of course, are in addition to their regular classwork, not instead of it. They are still required to do their assignments. Two of my children love the extra activity and find it helps then focus better. Two hate it and thus are more willing to do their schoolwork than extra chores. Either way, it's a win.
Consequences are usually not my first inclination for correcting a problem, but they do have their time and place. Used sparingly, they can help reset attitudes get the teen dawdler back to work.
- You Can Homeschool Kindergarten Without Fear—Use These 4 Things
Between church activities, my time spent teaching in public school, and my time spent homeschooling, I’ve taught children almost my whole life. I’ve birthed three children. I’ve adopted one. There isn’t much that scares me about children anymore.
There is just one thing that scared me to death—teaching kindergarten. I mean, kids start learning to read in kindergarten. It’s kind of a big deal.
I was so terrified of kindergarten that we sent two of my children to public school for kindergarten and I had no plans to change my no-kindergarten policy.
But then my youngest came along, and isn’t it just like the youngest child to throw a kink in all of your tested-and-tried plans? Because my youngest daughter’s birthday fell late in the year, she just missed the cutoff for public school. But, she was ready—very ready—to start school. So we decided to do the thing that I had never done before, to homeschool kindergarten.
I have to say that over the course of that year, kindergarten became one of my favorite ages, and I no longer fear it. I don’t think that you should fear it either. Homeschooling kindergarten is all about doing a few things really well.
1. Kindergarten Structure
Kindergarten is the year you want to work on getting your children used to the flow and structure of a school day. If you’ve already been doing preschool, you will simply build upon that existing structure. But, if your child is new to school, you’ll need to establish a routine for the day. That does not mean that every minute of the day is scheduled. Rather, it means that each day is predictable and has a clear flow.
I would caution against waking up one day to implement a full daily routine. You’ll want to ease into the transition of a school day routine. The first week, work on your morning routine. As your children get used to it, gradually add more elements of the routine until you find yourself with a full day.
A simple daily flow to work toward through the year might look something like this:
Kindergarten days should be fairly simple with plenty of time to explore and play. You will find that your daily structure is vastly different than the family down the street because each family has its own dynamics. Schedule your routine to reflect your family. The main idea here is a predictable routine that the child can depend on each day.
2. Kindergarten Basics
We all make the mistake of wanting to study quantum physics with our first child, and even sometimes our second, third, or fourth! Resist the urge to force feed education at this age.
You need a laser focus on the basics during kindergarten. Think reading, writing, and arithmetic, and for us, Bible study. You will sprinkle in art and nature naturally, so don’t get wrapped up in that. I highly recommend you read Ruth Beechick’s The Three R’s book to help you get started.
Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature (HBL) A is a fantastic place to begin in kindergarten. The Language Arts Activity Sheets contain just the right amount of practice to get your child on the right course, and the books are colorful, fun, and full of great themes for age-appropriate discussion. For math, I would recommend a simple curriculum such as Math-U-See or Singapore Math. Trust the curriculum you choose and allow it to be your guide for the year.
As you go through HBL A, you’ll notice several arts and crafts ideas as well as nature activities suggested throughout the Instructor’s Guide. If you get to them, great! If you don’t get to them, you can save them for another day or skip them altogether. Either way will be just fine.
3. Kindergarten Memorization
A huge part of the younger years is making the most of young children's amazing ability to memorize. Kindergartners are like little sponges, soaking up every bit of information you give them. When I homeschooled my daughter for Kindergarten, we did daily memorizing, including Bible verses, letter sounds, songs, short poems, etc.
Some days I offered an M & M for each item she said perfectly. Other days I held memory challenges to see who was better at reciting—my child or me! There are a plethora of really fun ways to memorize. Just be sure you tap into your kindergartner's budding talent of memorization.
4. Above All, a Love for Learning
The best piece of advice I can give for kindergarten is to encourage your child to develop a love for learning. Pay attention to your child’s cues. When they are tired, put the pencil away for a while. Play games. Go outside often. Make sure your child knows that learning comes from everywhere, not just books; the world is their classroom.
Raise a child who loves to learn, and you have raised a child who can do anything. Learning gaps can be quickly closed by a curious child.
Whatever you do, make sure that learning does not become a chore. If they moan and groan every time you pull out schoolwork, maybe they would benefit from an extra year of preschool. As a homeschooler, you are not on anyone else’s timeline. So, take your cues from your children, and don’t push too hard too early.
After teaching my youngest child through her kindergarten year, I realized that kindergarten was absolutely delightful and probably one of my favorite grades to teach. Since teaching my daughter, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching other kindergartners in our homeschool co-op, and I have loved every minute.
K-ers are so fun and so eager to get started learning. As you can tell, teaching kindergarten really isn’t so bad! It’s only tricky when you overthink it. Trust the curriculum, focus on the basics, take cues from your child, use lots of repetition, and cultivate a love for learning. Do these simple steps and you’ll be a Kindergarten homeschool extraordinaire! You’ll probably be like me and wonder why you were ever afraid of homeschooling your kindergartner.
- 3 Clever Incentives to Motivate a Homeschool Dawdler
For mid-elementary through early middle school children, I’ve found that incentives—both tangible and intangible—work well to motivate a homeschool dawdler. I tend to use them temporarily to stimulate a lagging child and then taper the rewards, expecting the schoolwork to become its own reward.
Of course, after time I may have to resort to an incentive again when children need another boost of motivation. This cycle is natural, and I have no qualms about using extrinsic rewards where needed. After all, I use incentives for myself when my own spirits are lagging about doing a job!
Each child is unique and responds differently to rewards. So it does take some trial and error to find the best incentives when dawdling needs to be nipped in the bud. Here are my three go-to incentives for kids who dawdle.
1. Timers and Timed Goals
Sometimes simply showing children there is an end point is enough to motivate them. Instead of having my children work until an assignment is complete, I may have them work for a set number of minutes instead. Once the time is up, they are done with that subject for the day.
Some children work best with a timer so they can see the minutes counting down and look forward to being done. You can purchase regular timers that show time elapsed, visual timers that highlight how much time is left, or fancy hourglasses that slowly trickle away the minutes. Seeing that visual reminder that time is ticking away helps many children stay on task instead of dawdling.
Another good use of timers is to give children a reward if they can finish their work within a certain amount of time. Or encourage kids to work faster by asking them to beat their previous time by a certain number of seconds or minutes.
2. Extra Recess
An easy reward that doesn’t cost anything is simply the promise of more free time—extra recess, extra screen time, or any similar reward that you know will appeal to your child. To use this incentive, simply set a time frame for a homeschool subject. It can a scheduled task, such as math between 9:00 and 9:30 am every day, or a routine task, such as reading for 30 minutes a day.
If a child is especially reluctant or has a terrible case of dawdling, offer the free time reward immediately after he finishes the required homeschool time. If the child is older or the dawdling isn't as severe, you can record the work and award all the extra free time at once on a weekly basis.
3. Reward Tracking Systems
Reward charts are highly versatile and easy to use. You can use a sticker chart, a daily checklist, or any other type of record keeping you desire. Use the chart to track completion of homeschool tasks your child dawdles over. Then depending on how well your child can delay gratification, offer daily or weekly rewards based on the charts.
The Sticker Chart
A sticker chart typically uses one sticker for each completed task. The sticker chart itself may work as a standalone incentive, but if your child needs a little extra motivation, you can offer rewards for each filled chart: a trip to get ice cream, an hour at the park, or a chance to choose a weekend meal.
The Candle Method
The candle method works great for read-alouds and other subjects where the child is not expected to produce output but needs to pay attention. Simply light a candle at the beginning of your read-aloud session, and as you read, give warnings each time your child interrupts (with comments not related to what you are reading) or stops paying attention. After two or so warnings, simply blow out the candle. When the candle is completely burned up, the child earns a reward your previously agreed on.
The M&M or LEGO Method
When you need to reward individual problems for a serious dawdler, the M&M or LEGO method works well. The premise is simple. Lay one M&M, or one LEGO beside each math problem. As soon as the child completes the problem correctly, they get the candy or LEGO award. If their answer is incorrect, either mom gets the reward, or they can try again to earn their prize.
The Marble (or Bean) Jar
Set up for this incentive is simple. You need a large jar and enough small pieces to fill it. I like marbles or colored rocks for aquariums, but you can use anything similar in size. Each time your child does a good job, they get to put a marble in the jar. When the jar is full, they have earned a reward.
Mommy Money/Daddy Dollars
In this incentive, you create your own ticket system or family currency which kids earn in exchange for homeschool work, chores, or even positive behaviors. You hand out money as you feel fit for different tasks your child has done
- getting all their spelling words correct
- being kind to a sibling
- finishing a Science Activity Sheet
- doing their chores without complaining
After they have a bit saved enough tickets or currency, they can exchange them for rewards. Here are some examples:
- 30 Daddy Dollars may equal an afternoon trip to the park
- 500 Daddy Dollars earns a day trip to the zoo
- 20 pieces of Mommy Money may equal one US dollar
- 100 Daddy Dollars equals a reward from an incentive box (below)
- 10 pieces of Mommy Money gets a bag of sunflower seeds
These boxes require a trip to a dollar store for various assorted toys, treats, games, and fun school supplies. Create a price list and mark each item in the box with the number of points/stickers/dollars it will take to earn each item. The incentive box has an added bonus of teaching your children to share if you allow them to gather points collectively to earn larger items.
With some children, you’ll find it’s hard to figure out what their motivational currency is, in other words, what stimulates them to do their work. In that case, use as many methods as it takes to find what really helps them stop the dawdling and get on track with completing their homeschool lessons.
- A Thoughtful Exposé of the "What About Socialization?" Question
I’m a second-generation homeschooler, so I’ve heard questions people ask homeschoolers for as long as I can remember. Curiosity comes in waves, and some of the most commonly asked topics tend to evolve over the years. A few questions, though, persist. Perhaps you, too, are wondering
- “What about college?”, or
- “But what about socialization?”
First of all, a quick spoiler alert: colleges love homeschoolers. They really do! And while many of the academic questions about home education have been answered in big ways over the years, the socialization myth lives on. This is simultaneously fascinating and confusing to me.
The Socialization Question Relies on an Incorrect Belief About the Public School System
Homeschooling has been fairly mainstream in the United States for some time now, at least long enough that many people have likely met not just a homeschooled kindergartner but also a homeschool graduate who’s now a likable, employed, successful, and well-adjusted adult.
Yet for whatever reason, the fears and myths surrounding the socialization question persist. Why is this? What cultural influences drive this question?
At its root, the socialization question relies on the ingrained—but inaccurate—belief that no shy, dysfunctional, or socially awkward child or adult ever emerged from the public school system.
Let’s think about that for a second. Is it really true that traditional brick-and-mortar education is the antidote for social dysfunction? Of course not! The socialization question itself reveals a clear double standard at play. When a disturbed individual surfaces on the news (night after night, in every local new station in the country), no one ever reports that the socialization practices of the public system are flawed and need to be changed.
The Socialization Question Relies on an Incorrect Perception of When Socialization Occurs
It’s easy at times to hold on to an idyllic view of the traditional classroom:
- a caring teacher
- a loving group of friends
- everyone’s individual needs being met
- all the educational opportunities we could dream of
Yet when we break down traditional education and look at it with a realistic lens in light of the socialization question, how much socialization—conversing, bonding, and making friends—is actually happening at a classroom level?
The truth is, as anyone who’s ever helped in a room full of young students can attest, teachers constantly remind students to stop talking, be quiet, and listen.
Yes, listening is a valuable skill, but when the classroom is held up as the gold standard for forming friendship and relationships, things simply don’t add up. In reality, most true socialization in school does not happen in a classroom, but during the fringe times of schooling:
- at recess (which are dwindling at an alarming rate in US schools)
- on class outings and field trips
- during extra curricular activities
Homeschool parents can offer their children all this—and much, much more—due to the tremendous scheduling flexibility which homeschool offers. While traditionally educated children are sitting in a desk next to same-age peers, homeschooled children have the chance to be plugged in to a wide range of mixed-age experiences, including
- field trips
- group music lessons
- specialized classes
- sports leagues
- scouting groups
- job shadowing
The Socialization Question Relies on an Incorrect and Narrow Definition of Socialization Itself
When my daughter was three, she carried on a vibrant conversation with the stranger across the picnic table at the park. “She speaks so well,” exclaimed the woman, turning toward me. “Where does she go to daycare?” When I explained I stayed at home with my daughter instead of sending her to daycare, the woman was shocked, exclaiming, “Then how did she learn to talk?” (I tried not to take it personally; myths tend to persist in the face of the facts.)
Although it defies logic, some people—like the woman I met at the park—continue to believe a group of extremely young, babbling, pre-verbal, children are better qualified to teach language through interaction than a verbal adult.
But much of this pervasive mindset stems from believing the public school system’s very narrow definition of socialization: interaction between peers born the same year. Due to this limiting view, some people have never thought of interaction outside this narrow age range as legitimate socialization.
The truth is, the traditional model of education—and the subsequent narrow definition of socialization—actually widens the gap between generations, resulting in more social awkwardness.
Think about it. Traditionally-schooled kids spend the majority of each six-hour school day around only those children who are close in age. They tend to initiate conversation and seek friendship primarily within that range.
Homeschooled kids, on the other hand, regularly converse with everyone from the elderly to the very young—not just same-age peers. As a result, homeschoolers are far more comfortable interacting with a wider range of humanity than the average age-segregated student. And the natural flow of multi-generational interaction prevalent in homeschooling, too, far more closely resembles real life—and real life workplaces—than does a traditional school setting.
So take heart, friends, especially if you’re just beginning this home education journey. Be empowered and encouraged in the face of ill-informed “But what about socialization?” questions. These doubts are flawed at the very root, based on
- incorrect beliefs about the public school system,
- incorrect perceptions of when socialization occurs, and
- incorrect and narrow definitions of socialization itself.
Non-traditional education bypasses these pitfalls, and allows for a wide range of (true!) socialization.
There’s no question. Homeschooling prepares kids very well for the real world.